Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to sell in the "Social Buying" days.

How to sell to the "Social Buyer"
The new Social Buyer has forever changed the way you sell. Or at least, should have changed it.

If you’re among those who think that since your clients are now on social networks you can find them easily, shoot them with your sales pitch and convince them to do business with you in the blink of an eye, then I truly recommend you to think about it again.

Instead of becoming shorter and simpler, the sales cycle has gone the opposite way: It has grown longer and more complex, and now includes a stage that is completely out of your control: the search for information about products that buyers perform before making the purchasing decision.

Day after day, hundreds of thousands of notes, comments , posts and product reviews are published online in different social platforms, whether it is LinkedIn, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

There are several "not so famous" communities where users gather to share their thoughts and opinions about products and services.

And that's just to name the main ones, and reminding you that there is a big handful of communities where its members meet with simply the idea of sharing their opinions about products or services, and the companies that offer them.

A long time ago, selling was much easier.

Back then, when you were to make a buying decision, the only option you had was to put yourself in front of the company you wanted to do business with and ask them about information on the products and services they offered that you were interested in.

At that moment, you were extremely and completely vulnerable to information they were willing to provide you with. Because it was at their will.

And usually what you were going to receive was simply the sales pitch for what you were interested on, whether as a brochure, a product profile or a company presentation. Basically, sales talk.

To know if their products or services were good or not, that was on God’s hands or, in the best case, if you could have, or were lucky enough, to know another person who had already done business with or bought products from the same company, who could offer you its opinion and advice. Little more.

Let’s fast-forward to the days we are living on and you find yourself with a huge market of digital and anonymous, "invisible" potential buyers, who are increasingly using social media to conduct the investigation prior to the purchase process, and letting themselves to be influenced, on a major or minor way, by the information they receive to make the final decision.

I am a big fan of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, and I have a handful of sites to which I have subscribed to receive information about updates, new aircrafts, tips, hints, updates and even I have had to resort to these communities to solve problems that I have had while using the product, and read product reviews before buying new add-ons.

Be aware: None of these conversations have been with Microsoft directly. Instead, they have happened with product users, like myself, who have taken the time to put their experiences with the product together, the solutions they have came up with when having incidences, recommendations and suggestions, and shared them with other product fans like myself.

You need a radical change of strategy: Engage in relevant conversations.

To help you adapt to this new way of doing things, you must understand that the concept of "selling in a social environment" means that you do not continue to be the first place your potential buyers go to gather information about your products and services, therefore you are no longer the “owner of the conversation” and it’s no longer about yourself or your products.

Instead you are now simply one more participant in a "huge digital conversation" which is focused on your customer’s concerns. And, in most of the cases, you are not even notified when these conversations are happening, unless you're really interested in listening and paying attention to them.

And through these conversations, if you actively participate by listening, you will have the opportunity to build relationships with your actual customers, and possibly your future buyers as well.

From invisible friends, to invisible buyers.

There was a famous personality in my country, Arturo Uslar Pietri, who had a TV show named "Human Values​​" in which, each time a new show started, he cordially welcomed his "invisible friends".

And by that he meant that he was completely sure and confident about the things he was going to explain during the program, but did not have any way to control what would happen on the other side of the screen, and even less during those years before the Internet existed.

These "invisible friends" will create their own opinions abouth the program and will share them with whoever they wanted to.

Well in our days, the digital market is filled with a huge crowd, who are not your friends, but "invisible potential buyers" who easily hide behind their computers, laptops or smartphones, querying, searching, and having access to digital content to educate themselves about the products and/or services they are interested in.

Thousands of people hide behind their smartphones while they search for information on the products they are interested in.

And through such anonymity they can read recommendations of countless people they probably don’t even know, but who have very valuable information: they have used a product or service in which they, your invisible customers are now interested on.

For sure even your own customers know more about your business than you can imagine, even before making the initial contact.

Armed with an arsenal of knowledge.

Or what we have now decided to call "Customer 2.0". In other words, consumers are now equipped with an arsenal of knowledge, with both good things and not-so-good-things, about your company, the products you sell and even those which your competitors sell.

Instead of being influenced solely by your marketing message, as it was in the past, this new generation of consumers is making their purchase decision after an extensive process in which they ensure, the best they can, that the product or service they are acquiring is the one they really need.

What does this mean for your business and how you can adapt to change?

We have always known that "word of mouth" advertising or “following the recommendation of a friend”, is worth more than any advertising you can pay for, because it has a double value: It's a personal testimony and a direct recommendation at the same time .

From being the only one who talks to becoming the one who must be paying attention and listening closely.

Such conversations are happening every day, not only in social networks, but in other platforms too, and play (or should be playing) a major role in your marketing and communications strategy.

This whole thing means you have to adapt to the change and move from being "the one who dominates the conversation" to become "actively involved in the talking" and bring in the best and more valuable content you have to an audience hungry for such information.

This dynamic environment will allow you to get a real time view of what is happening in your market and better understand individual needs of your potential buyers.

Tools there are many, from simple Google Alerts, to more specialized ones, but the basic principle behind them all continues to be the same: "You have to give up your desire to dominate the conversation, become an active participant, provide valuable content and actively listen to discover business opportunities for your company and its products"

Do you have any idea on how many people right now might be looking on the Internet for information about products and services like those you offer, and you don’t even know?

Related post in this blog :
Are you listening? But .... Really?
Social Media: From a conversation to a brand new sale in 6 simple steps.

Image credit: subbotina / 123RF Stock Photo

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